Everyone deals with anxiety and depression in some way at some point in their lives. Many therapists agree that depression can look like anxiety, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what is making you feel uncomfortable. Even though depression and anxiety affect people differently, there are some things you can do that will benefit you if you suffer from either one or even both.
1. Be proactive. Don’t wait for the mood to come over you before you do something about it. If you have a problem with low or anxious moods, talk with a medical professional and get help.
2. Listen to sound medical advice. If you have been prescribed medication, take it as directed. Follow the directions of your doctor and your therapist so that you can heal as quickly as possible.
3. Get exercise. Every study comes to this same conclusion. Exercise will help lower your anxiety and lessen your depression. This is your easiest, most accessible, and least expensive tool to make your life whole again. Use it.
4. Get some fresh air. If you are sitting in the house all day and just thinking about your troubles, you are not going to get any better, and it may make things worse. If you are not feeling well enough to exercise, at least let some fresh air and sunlight into your house.
5. Use full-spectrum lighting. Studies have shown that this is especially effective when you are dealing with seasonal affective disorder, which is where people get depressed because of a lack of sunlight.
6. Know that your mood doesn’t mean you are bad or weak. Depression and anxiety are often biochemical, and that’s when medication can be very helpful. Medication is also sometimes used for situational mood disorders. No matter what you suffer from, blaming yourself will not help.
7. Let your pain out. If you need to cry, find a safe place to let the tears come. Some people prefer another person with them while others can only cry in private. Either way is OK, but you can’t hold all that discomfort inside and expect to feel normal.
8. Get out of denial. If you are not functioning appropriately and are finding yourself thinking about painful, sad, or scary things much of the time over an extended period (for two weeks or more), you need to take action. Start by picking up the phone and calling a friend.
9. Look for alternatives. For some people, medication either doesn’t work or the side effects are too severe. Some good studies have been done on the positive effects of supplements and vitamins on mood disorders.
10. Don’t give up. The mere act of looking for ways to feel better is helping you get better. I know it’s hard, but try to do something every day to help lift your spirits. It all adds up.
Dealing with moods can be challenging, but if left unattended, the darkness and fear can take over your life. You are in control when you start to make healing choices.
Dr. Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, is the author of “The Happy Couple – How to Make Happiness a Habit One Little Loving Thing at a Time.” Email him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com. Follow his daily insights at www.twitter.com/BartonGoldsmith.